What has your journey been like since diagnosis?
I have been living with Parkinson's for over 20 years. Initially, the outward and visible evidence of my condition was virtually imperceptible and was limited to the involvement of my left side only. Over a number of years, family and close friends began to see that something was amiss. I took a fairly neutral position. If someone asked or raised a question about it, I responded factually and didn't try to conceal my Parkinson's, but I also didn't go out of my way to disclose it.
However, as time passed, it became more or more evident that I was experiencing physical challenges due to Parkinson's. As is often the case, I did well on medication for almost 15 years, but eventually, the drug efficacy declined.
In August 2016 I had DBS surgery on the right side of my brain to reduce the impact on my left side. Not long after that, I developed a slight tremor on my right side, so I had DBS surgery on the left side of my brain in November 2018.
How do you live well each day?
The key for me is drawing, painting and expressing my creativity (which includes cooking, especially desserts!) I've learned that art is great therapy for Parkinson's. Often, while working on a painting, I realize that my tremors have quieted, sometimes completely – an unexpected but welcome collateral benefit. Art as therapy is a great gift!
But make no mistake, tremors and other symptoms of Parkinson's can interfere with my artwork. On a number of occasions I've been asked how I am able to draw or paint due to Parkinson's, and I guess the short answer is that I draw, paint and sketch because I have Parkinson's, not in spite of it.
What do you wish you would have known when you were diagnosed that you know now about living with Parkinson's?
I wish I had known about the adjustments I would have to make in my day-to-day life. Tasks which formerly took 30 minutes to complete now require 45 minutes or an hour, or in some cases, cannot be performed at all, at least not by me. Managing stress and fatigue is critical, and it is a great challenge for me to give myself permission to take it easy, as many around me suggest.
TOM BEASLEY'S PHILOSOPHY
What do you wish everyone living with Parkinson's knew about living well?
If I could impart only one key principle, it would be to celebrate what you can do rather than grieve over what you can no longer do. There was a time when I could wade fish for hours on end and hike over rugged terrain, looking for artifacts and other collectibles. Those days and times are now memories, but they are deeply etched in my consciousness, so much so that through art I am allowed to return to those familiar haunts and enjoy them as much as ever. Find something you can do and that you enjoy. It will lighten the load!
To learn more about Tom's art, visit his website here.
SHARE YOUR VICTORY
Each month, we spotlight someone from our Parkinson’s community who embodies living well today – what we call Moments of Victory®
Your story, like Tom’s, could be featured on our blog and Facebook page so others can learn from your experiences and victories.